Scientists gathered in Germany for the first international conference on SARS have heard there is a good chance that a vaccine to the killer respiratory disease would be found within three years.
The 300 scientists from China, the center of last year's SARS epidemic, as well as Europe, Canada and the United States gathered for the four-day conference to present research on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
SARS last year caused almost 800 deaths worldwide from some 8,000 infections, most of them in China and South-East Asia, before it was halted by quarantine policies.
In a smaller outbreak linked to handling of the virus in a laboratory, nine people have been diagnosed with the disease in China in the past few weeks, prompting the Chinese authorities to isolate hundreds of people.
Rolf Hilgenfeld, conference director and the head of the University of Luebeck's biochemistry institute, warned the conference that research with the coronavirus required extra care, since it appeared that the SARS strain was mutating with each new epidemic.
In April of this year American researchers announced an experimental vaccine against SARS that had had successful results in lab mice.
A study released last week by Chinese pathologists showed that the SARS virus can be found in sweat glands and the intestine, and added that theoretically it could spread via contaminated sewage, food or even a handshake, not just by airborne droplets.
(CRI May 11, 2004)